When I was in Shangri-La last September it was still early in their autumn season so wild flowers were still in bloom throughout the countryside. I don’t know the name of this flower I found while traveling the countryside in the Na Xi region of Yunnan Province but it was strikingly beautiful to my eye.
2/19 update: Thank you Vicki and Jo Ann for identifying this flower as a Red Dahlia!
A window into a traditional Tibetan home in a rural village. This was from one of my day trips out of Shangri-La and up into the front range of the Himalayas in the northern corner of Yunnan province. Many of the people living in the small mountainside towns, farms and villages are ethnic Tibetan. It was an honour to see some of their culture during a visit to this village.
It was interesting as this is a place that tour buses stop during day trips into the mountains so it is a tourist focused place but the people living there had a joy and vibrancy about them which stood apart from many similar locations. I really enjoyed the couple of hours that I spent there.
The Leaping Tiger Gorge is a deep canyon created by the Jinsha River whose headwaters are in the Tibetan Plateau is the upper course of the Yangtze River. The water volume is immense and with the amount of ground carved away always runs a earthy colour. The color is repeated with some of the ripples in the rock exposed between the water and the edge of the forest which traces a ragged line above the river.
There is a visitor site that is interesting and allows you to descend several hundred feet down to the river level. The legend holds that a tiger was once seen leaping across the gorge. At a minimum distance of 82′ (25m) that would have been amazing to watch. Being able to feel the spray off of the rapids and hear the roar of the water up close was beautiful. I think I will remember my time in the gorge for a very long time.
Vicki Alford made the excellent suggestion to include some imagery to show the river’s power. I have included an image with a faster shutter speed taken from a viewing deck roughly halfway down the canyon.
A small group of monks from Ganden Sumtseling Gompa took a walk around Lamuyang Lake in the early evening. I was strolling along the wooden pathway and stopped to photograph them as they approached. The monastery sits on a hill above the lake a short distance from here and I was told monks often circle it before dusk. I did love photographing Sumtseling that evening but this was a good moment where I felt a connection with this place and her people.
(please click on an image to open a higher resolution version)
Autumn is nearing its end this year in my part of the world. When I was in Shangri-La, China last month fall colors had just started to appear in the forests. In the Puducao National Park, I found these brilliant leaves among the deep greens dominating the foliage along the southern shoreline of Shudu Lake. If you are interested in seeing other images from my trip, please click this link.
The Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is often referred to as the Little Potala given its resemblance to the Dalai Lama’s original home, the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. I have not yet visited there but Sumtseling, in Shangri-La on the western edge of China was a very meaningful place for me. I spent the morning exploring the complex and listening to the resident monks chanting in one of the great halls housed under the golden roofs. In the afternoon, I wandered around the lake that sits at the foot of the monastery. In the image above, I framed Sumtseling against the darkening sky whose clouds were gently catching some of the color ahead of sunset. The hill in the mid ground, above the light green trees, hides the small village that sits under the monastery and serves to keep the magnificent complex uncluttered from this view.
When I was in Shangri-La last month, I spent one day touring the Pudacuo National Park (also called Potatso; in Chinese it is 普达措国家公园). Not enough time by any stretch of my imagination but I enjoyed the time I had. In the morning I walked along the shoreline of Shudu lake and early on came across this White wagtail (Motacilla alba alboides) hunting for insects.
From this partly submerged perch, he flew down and skimmed the water’s surface. Each dive appeared to be successful and after a few minutes the bird flew into the trees and disappeared.
The countryside surrounding Shangri-La is a rural landscape of small farms, fields and villages divided by densely forested hills, soaring mountains and deeply carved rivers. When I was in China last month I spent a couple of days driving the narrow roads that connect these places. These are a selection of these scenes as I experienced them.
The smoke from early fires, mist from the warming earth and sunlight filtering through the clouds created an interesting atmosphere around this small village in the countryside a few miles north of Shangri-La. I ended up spending a couple of days in the rural areas outside of the city and enjoyed seeing this side of life and its juxtaposition with the urban pace in the city.
When I was in Shangri-La in China a couple of weeks ago, I spent a fair bit of time before and after the award ceremony and activities walking around the city’s old town area. I enjoyed photographing the street scenes I came across.
I loved the three wheeled vehicles that thread through traffic carrying fruit, people, propane and almost anything else.
Above and below are from my first morning in China, before heading up to Shangri-La. I stayed in a small town called Ka Fa Chu perched on the side of a steep valley above the Yangtze River. I woke up and walked around the town visiting a small temple and ending along a busy street where the traffic heading up to Shangri-La passed close by. These gentlemen were focused on this game which was not familiar to me but appeared to be equal parts chance and skill.
One of the smaller temples within the Sumtseling Monastery (also called the Songzanlin Monastery and Ganden Sumtseling Gompa) that I visited was Chatreng Khamtsen.
The temple is on a lower level from the main assembly and the temple where I listened to the monks praying and photographed one particularly friendly gentleman. The flowers caught my eye as I walked down the stone staircase and after framing the image above with the temple’s main entrance on the right side, I went inside to have a look.
I found it to be empty of people while filled with murals, bronze statues and deep silence. It was a calm respite and I enjoyed a quiet moment to make an offering and light a candle for my family under one of the icons. The beauty and spirituality of Sumtseling is immense and I will share more from this most special place.
A good friend and great photographer, Jorge Sarmento, and I rented a van and driver yesterday and drove out into the countryside. We didn’t have any set agenda so we were just exploring the mountains and valleys as we went. Our driver was a Tibetan and was from a small village called Ni Xi about 40 kilometres from Shangri-La. We found that out when we asked about visiting that town which is renowned for its black pottery which results from baking it in the kiln without any coatings or glazes. He drove us to his friend’s home who is an apprentice potter. When we arrived, we asked if he would mind if we photographed him at work and he had no problem with that. As we watched he created a tea-cup on this small wheel. It was great to watch him work with his hands and tools to shape the final piece. Along the way I learned that he was five years into his apprenticeship but I was not able to ask how long he would study under his teacher. I absolutely loved watching the craftsmanship and ease with which he worked. There was mastery in his work. The two men were smoking while the cup was being made which gave Jorge the idea to increase the volume of smoke. We had a puff of smoke blown in through the open window, with both men’s approval, which rolled and wrapped around as seen in this image. It was a great idea and elevated an already compelling scene considerably. Thank you Jorge!
I spent the morning and evening at the Songzanlin Monastery (also called Sumtseling Monastery and Ganden Sumtseling Gompa) yesterday. Sutra chanting, deep tones which carried around the upper complex, drew me to the Duke Khamtsen building. Prayers were ongoing in the hall behind this gentleman with roughly twenty monks intoning and drumming. This was marked by the occasional sounding of a long horn. I stayed there listening for a long time during which I spoke with this monk now and then. He was very friendly and when I asked whether photographing this outer entrance was allowed, as photographing the inner hall during prayers is not allowed, he said it was and offered to be in the picture. The photographs were infinitely better having him in them. When I showed him, he approved and pulled a couple of his friends over to show them too. It could not have worked out better. The photographs are one thing, but he best part was being able to be in this moment enjoying the prayers, the feeling of well being and a little time with my higher self.
The Dukezong prayer wheel lies in the heart of Shangri-La’s old town and stands over 24 metres tall (80′) atop Guishan (which translates as Tortoise Mountain). It is a small hill but along with this massive bronze Tibetan prayer wheel is adorned with two beautiful structures that are the main buildings of the Dukezong Temple.
I arrived in Shangri-La earlier in the day and went exploring with a recently made photographer friend once unpacked. We made our way to the old town, which is a siren’s call for most visitors to Shangri-La, and was charmed by the vibrant people and character buildings. Jorge needed a coffee and that sounded like a great idea. We retired to a second floor coffee shop which afforded a great view of the street and Guishan. With great coffee soon in hand, the clouds offered us a gift by parting to the west. With the sun close to setting, the warm light glowed on the wheel and the temple. The coffee was forgotten for a few minutes at that point in favour of photographing. A great start to my visit to this most interesting of places.